Jeremy Shockey's chief complaint with the New York Giants for the past couple of seasons is that the ball just doesn't come his way often enough. Let's look at the hard numbers and see just how valid his complaint is.
In Shockey's rookie season, 2002, he led all tight ends with 74 catches. In 2006, the last full season he played, he caught 66 passes, a good number that placed him 5th among all tight ends. Last season he had 57 catches in 14 games -- a number that means he would have roughly equaled 2006 if he had played all 16 games.
So, Shockey hardly has a beef if his contention is that the Giants ignore him on offense.
Let's look deeper than just the number of catches to see how effective Shockey has been.
Football Outsiders uses a couple of statistics One, called "Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement" or DPAR to rank players at each position. Another, "Defense-adjusted Value Over Average" or DVOA, represent value per play.
When looking at tight ends, Shockey ranked third in the NFL in DPAR in 2002 and only 20th in DVOA despite his 74 catches.
For me, the really interesting number in the 2002 stats is that the Giants tried to throw the ball to Shockey 127 times. Only one other tight end, Baltimore's Todd Heap, had more than 100 balls thrown his way. Heap had 122 passes thrown in his direction.
Fast-forward to 2006, and you find that the Giants tried to throw the ball to Shockey 115 times -- a difference of less than one fewer throw per game. Or, hardly a noticeable change at all.
The real difference? In 2006, there were six tight ends who had more than 100 balls thrown in their direction. Only San Diego's Antonio Gates (120) had more than Shockey.
In 2007, there were five tight ends with more than 100 balls thrown their way. Shockey had 93 in 14 games, so he would likely have made the total six. In 2007, though, three tight ends -- Jason Witten (Dallas), Tony Gonzalez (Kansas City) and Kellen Winslow (Cleveland) had more than 130 balls throw in their direction.
When I look at those numbers this is what I see. The Giants aren't necessarily throwing the ball to Shockey less -- though the number of pass attempts going in his direction is down very slightly.
The reality is that it seems other teams are using their tight ends more. While Shockey's opportunities have remained relatively static, tight ends like Witten, Gonzalez, Heap and Winslow are seeing more balls than ever heading in their direction.
The other thing that jumps out at me from the Football Outsiders analysis is that the Giants are incredibly inefficient when they throw the ball to Shockey.
In 2007, Shockey caught 61% of passes thrown in his direction. In the two previous seasons the Giants were successful completing passes to Shockey only 57 and 53% of the time.
The completion percentage numbers seem to be 65% or higher for most of the elite tight ends, though Winslow (55% in 2007) is an exception.
What does that tell me? I think it's been obvious, but the numbers back up the belief that the relationship between Shockey and his quarterback, Eli Manning, isn't that good.
How to fix that? Again, obvious. Instead of complaining, Mr. Miami needs to get to New Jersey more often and forge a better relationship with Eli.
We have been saying it for a long time, but if Shockey would stop being such a stubborn, selfish jerk and actually put in some work with his quarterback a lot of his issues would take care of themselves.